In 2017, it’s public figures like Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé, and Ava DuVernay that have become society’s feminist icons. But before them, there was someone else woke women idolized: Wonder Woman. Over the course of almost 80 years, the classic comic book character has gone through several changes. She was initially depicted as a feminist and then as a damsel in distress and finally as a role model. Despite the various shifts in direction, the one constant has always been what Wonder Woman represents. She is a symbol for feminism, an example of strength in a crisis, and the embodiment of how powerful women truly are. But how did this Amazonian goddess come to be and why has it taken several decades for her to grace the silver screen? This is the long overdue story of Wonder Woman.  

First emerging in October 1941 in All Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman (aka Princess Diana and Diana Prince) exuded feminine power. She was conceived as a stand-in for society to cope with the trauma and tragedy of World War II. For many, she was the female version of Superman, from the patriotic attire to the unwavering compassion for others. But to compare the demigoddess to a man—super or otherwise—not only diminishes her contributions to pop culture, but misses the point entirely. As a founding member of the Justice League, Wonder Woman isn’t some sidekick playing second fiddle to a bunch of men in tights. She’s the main attraction and in a superhero class all her own.  

“Superman just showed up as a baby; he had no choice [to be a superhero], and [with] Batman—Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered when he was a kid,” explains comic writer and TV critic Sean T. Collins. “Wonder Woman made a decision as an adult woman to do what she’s doing and defy her mother and come to man’s world and be a superhero.”